First it was the Elbo Room, then the Hemlock Lounge. Storied SoMa venue Mezzanine announced this morning that the landlords have declined to renew the lease, and the club will have to close its doors in October 2019. At least 35 employees are expected to lose their jobs when San Francisco’s largest female-owned, independent space shutters for good.
For 15 years, the two-floor space on Jessie Street near Mint Plaza has been the site of numerous high-profile shows, including most of the Hard French crew’s annual Pride parties. Its ability to close off a section of the alley behind it has always been a draw for day-long events and various after-parties.
In a statement, Mezzanine owner Deborah Jackman said, “I was disappointed that the owners of the building didn’t give me an opportunity to renegotiate a new lease. I was further disappointed that my request for a three-month extension, so that we could close out 2019 was rejected. What I find most disturbing is that Mezzanine, like so many other cultural institutions, has fallen victim to corporate greed and commercial development.”
Although Mint Plaza and the surrounding blocks have had its share of challenges — chef Jason Fox of Commonwealth opened a follow-up restaurant Oro in 2016, only to see it close months later — the current owners are apparently working with Colton Commercial & Partners Inc to turn it into a commercial office space. In other words, they’re looking for a tech tenant to charge five times as much for valuable, centrally located square footage in a building with good bones.
Marketing manger Chris Sanders tells SF Weekly that “Mezzanine is at its best when we have live electronic music. Simian Mobile Disco back in the day, LCD Soundsystem, the Cut Copy New Year’s — there’s so many. Flight Facilities this year was really good.
“It’s that venue that a lot of artists play right before they get huge,” Sanders adds. “And we get underplays: Galantis played right after selling out Bill Graham. People get a chance to see a really big artist in an intimate setting.”
Mezzanine is a venue that artists generally love, as well. The green room is a lounge with a shower and the front room has a fireplace. But obviously, it’s fans who will suffer from the gradual asphyxiation-by-prosperity of San Francisco.
An inability to push the date from October 2019 to at least January 2020 is something of a punch in the face, to get one more New Year’s show in. New Year’s Eve 2018, however, is booked and ready to go, with The Knocks, Hotel Garuda, and Sweater Beats scheduled to play.
The need to liquidate everything at some point means the event calendar has an open-ended termination date for now, but Soul-Slam (the Michael Jackson-Prince party) and at least a few more Dirtybird Quarterly parties are definitely happening.
Additionally, Sanders says, Mezzanine will host one more Wonderful this December — and have a Sweet 16 blowout in April., something that Jackman confirms.
“We have 10 months, and I’m going to make sure we have the most fun that we can. We’re going to go after some artists that have outgrown Mezzanine — but hopefully have some attachment to us — that will come and play and help us celebrate what we’re now gong to call our ‘Bittersweet 16’ in April and have a whole month celebration for that. I just got off the phone with Christian Martin from Dirtybird, and they’re devastated and they’re going to make sure we have a bunch of great events with them before we close.”
“I’m also hoping that maybe there will be a rallying cry,” Jackman adds. “My dream — and it’s only a dream — is that there’s enough pressure from our fans and the community that maybe it buys us a few more months and that they would let us have New Year’s 2020.”
Ball’s in your court, landlords.